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THE FACTS OF SPIRITUALISM.
Genuineness of the Phenomena. But is the above hypothesis, and the normal and abnormal condition of mind described, sufficient to account for the phenomena of Spiritualism? Of such phenomena as are genuine I think they are. But are any of the alleged facts genuine; are not fraud and superstition and self-delusion sufficient to account for them all? Although a great deal may be accounted for in this way still a large residue remains of most important psychological phenomena. The spiritualists have a theory to support, for the good, as they suppose, of all mankind; we must not be surprised therefore if the facts require a little forcing to fit that theory, and if the theorists often think they see what they so strongly wish to see. For most of the alleged facts we may readily find the testimony of twelve honest witnesses, and we must not reject that testimony, because in ignorance of mental science, and the bodily conditions upon which it depends, such facts are used to support superstitions which are vanishing before the advancing light of the age. The strength of intolerance and bigotry is generally in proportion to ignorance, but I do not think any candid person, after examination, can resist the testimony in favour of the facts themselves. The article in the Cornhill Magazine, “Stranger than Fiction,” is rightly attributed I believe to Robert Bell, and Dr. Gully, of Malvern, says of it, “I can state with the greatest positiveness that the record made in that article is, in every particular correct,” and “that no sleight-of-hand, or other artistic contrivance produced what we heard or beheld.” So it may be presumed that Dr. Gully was present on this occasion, and as Mr. Home is stated in that account in the Cornhill to have floated about the room, over the heads of the persons present, witches riding about on broom-sticks may be “ founded in fact” after all. The above statement of Dr. Gully's is to be found in “ Incidents of my Life," by D. D. Home; of which book a “Friend” in the “Introductory Remarks,” says, “whatever be the preconceptions of the reader regarding Mr. Home, he will scarcely fail after reading this volume, to acknowledge that the author writes as a man thoroughly in earnest, and who has himself no doubt of the phenomena that attend him." In this I most heartily concur; still Mr. Home may not be altogether free from the unconscious effort to make facts square to his theory, or, when “ the spirits ”, on some important occasion, were not sufficiently demonstrative, from giving to them some little assistance.
Mr. T. Adolphus Trollope, writing from Florence to the Athenæum, March 21, 1863, says, “I have been present at very many sittings' of Mr. Home in England, many in my own house in Florence, some in the house of a friend in Florence.
I have seen and felt physical facts wholly and utterly inexplicable, as I believe, by any known and generally received physical laws. I unhesitatingly reject the theory which considers such facts to be produced by means familiar to the best professors of legerdemain. I have witnessed also very surprising and extraordinary metaphysical manifestations. But I cannot say that any of these have been such as wholly to exclude the possibility of their being deceptive,—and indeed, to use the honest word required by the circumstances, fraudulent.
“This is my testimony reduced to its briefest possible expression.
“ If it be asked what impression, on the whole, has been left on my mind by all that I have witnessed in this matter, I
PROFESSOR DE MORGAN'S TESTIMONY.
answer, one of perplexed doubt, shaping itself into only one conviction that deserves the name of an opinion, namely, that quite sufficient cause has been shown to demand further patient and careful inquiry from those who have the opportunity and the qualifications needed for prosecuting it; that the facts alleged and the number and character of the persons testifying to them are such that real seekers for truth cannot satisfy themselves by merely pooh-poohing them.”
But the testimony most to be relied on for the reality of the phenomena is that of perhaps one of the most acute and hard-headed philosophers of this day, not a spiritualist but a Professor of Mathematics, Augustus de Morgan. In the admirable Preface to Mrs. de Morgan's book, " From Matter to Spirit", he says “I am perfectly convinced that I have both seen and heard, in a manner which would make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence or mistake.” He says " there has been a sudden and general recognition of the existence of phenomena which historical enquiry shows never to have been entirely unknown.” The base of the spiritualist hypothesis he tells us is “ that some intelligence, which is not that of any human beings clothed in flesh and blood, has a direct share in the phenomena.” And again, “ My state of mind which refers the whole either'to unseen intelligence, or something which man has never had any conception of, proves me to be out of the pale of the Royal Society,” (p. 27,) but, he says, “ if these things be spirits, they show that pretenders, coxcombs, and liars are to found on the other side of the grave as well as on this.” —(p. 44.) " When it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena, I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose among things that I can conceive, I should say that there is some sort of action of some combination of will, intellect, and physical power, which is not that of any of the human beings present. But thinking it very likely that the universe may contain a few agencies—say half-a-million — about which no man knows anything, I cannot but suspect that a small proportion of these agencies-say five thousand - may be severally competent to the production of all the phenomena, or may be quite up to the task among them. The physical explanations which I have seen are easy, but miserably insufficient; the spiritual hypothesis is sufficient, but ponderously difficult." Of the possible existence of such occult forces Mr. W. R. Grove, writing however not on Spiritualism, but on Light, says, “The conviction that every transient gleam (of light) leaves its permanent impress on the world's history, also leaves the mind to ponder over the many possible agencies of which we of the present day may be as ignorant as the ancients were of the chemical character of light.”*
Dr. Ashburner tells us (quoted in "An Exposition of Spiritualism," p. 290), that “A force which is a material agent, attended by or constituting a coloured light, emanates from the brain of man, when he thinks that his will can direct its impingement--and that it is a motive power." + Mr. Atkinson also, in the same work, (p. 295,) says, so called spiritual manifestations arise from a force projected and directed by the unconscious sphere of the mind or soul”: and before the occurrence of such manifestations he
* Correlation of Physical Force, p. 152.
+ The Catholics tell us that the heads and countenances of Saints in their Church have shone out with a glorious brightness, as the face of an angel. No doubt the "auriole” was the odylic light of Reichenbach, or this coloured light of Dr. Ashburner, much more evident, even to “sensitives ”, in some persons than in others.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL FORCES.
remarked, (Letters, p. 114,) "amongst matter to be inquired into are all cases of persons who cast off an influence which causes motion in surrounding objects,” &c.*
Mr. D. D. Home's explanation is, “That the spirits accomplish what they do through our life-sphere, or atmosphere, which was permeated by our wills; and if the will was contrary the sphere-was unfit for being acted upon,” + consequently scepticism marred the forces at work. He tells
“One of his friends was converted from previous unbelief, by seeing a female hand, which was visible to all in the room, slowly forming in the air a few inches above the table, until it assumed all the apparent materiality of a real hand, (p. 132); but he tells us, spirits have great difficulty in presenting, and thus incarnating these hands out of the vital atmosphere of those present, and that their work was spoilt, and had to be recommenced, when they were interfered with.” —(p. 77.)
We are also told in “Incidents in my Life,” that Dr. Carpenter “ thinks these phenomena are produced by unconscious cerebration,
and Mr. J. D. Morell refers them to reflex action of the mind”; we may presume, therefore, that both these gentlemen accept the genuineness of the phenomena, and their explanation, taken jointly, with Dr. Ashburner's, does not much differ, probably, from my own, although they
Every fragment or material we can hold or see is a storehouse of force. In the case of certain compounds like gunpowder, we know how to unlock chemical forces of affinity and cohesion, and to obtain by a sudden expansion and re-arrangement of atoms, a mechanical power that rends the rock or propels the ball; but it is startling to think that the most quietly-behaved bodies we find on the globe, the granite frames of mountains, or the very dust particles on the road, are like sleeping lions, full of potential force, which they can give out the moment the balance of their affinities are disturbed.".
'_“ Physical Forces." - The Intellectual Observer, April, 1866.
+ Incidents of my Life, p. 75.